Introduction to triathlon

Sport Relief 2014 showed how popular the three sports that make up triathlon; swimming, cycling and running have become. As well as events across the country in all three disciplines, the epic effort by TV presenter, Davina McCall, who at 46, took on the challenge of an ironman (albeit spread over a few days) and inspired us all. But the good news is, that we don’t all have to do a ‘Davina’ to enjoy triathlon.

Triathlons have grown in popularity every year, and the figures regarding participation continue to soar with over a 17 per cent increase between 2012 and 2013. And with the increasing number of participants, and abilities, the variety of events and options to race has also changed.

Beginners usually start with sprints made up of a 400 to 750m swim, a 15 to 25k bike and a 5k run, and in recent times, super sprints, with a 400m swim, a 10k bike ride and a 2.5k run. Beginners’ triathlons are usually pool-based as opposed to open water. And many start triathlon as part of a relay team, focusing on one sport.

The next stage is the Olympic triathlon – a 1.5k swim, a 40k bike ride and a 10k run, and the race continues in increasing increments to Ironman – 3.8k swim, a 180k bike and a marathon.

Covering three sports means that triathlon really does cover all fitness bases, with cardiovascular benefits from all three, and extras such as strength from the bike, and flexibility and upper body strength from swimming. It is the ultimate cross training event.

Plan it

The first thing to do is to choose your race, check out the British Triathlon Federation’s website for details of events.

You could spend a fortune on equipment, and many do with the average spend on a bike being £1900. But you don’t need to go high tech. The basics include swimming costume or tri suit with padding; pull buoy, float and other training aids; wetsuit for open water; goggles; hat; race number belt; running kit and shoes (easy tie laces); bike (can use a mountain bike for your first race but you may wish to switch to thinner tyres); helmet; and cycling shoes (optional).

Get started for a sprint triathlon

Over a four-week period try the following sessions. With the swim warm up and cool down for a minimum of 50m in week one, any stroke, and 200m in week four. To kick use a float, arms outstretched in front, and to pull use arms only, legs supported with a pull buoy.

Week one:

  • 20 min run – or walk/run.
  • Main: 4 x 25m front crawl, 25m kick, 25m front crawl, 25m pull – 20 sec recovery between sets.
  • 30 minutes on the bike.

Week two:

  • 20 min run – or walk/run.
  • Main: 6 x 50m pull/50m kick.
  • 45 minutes on the bike.

Week three:

  • 25 min run – or walk/run.
  • Main: 4 x 100m pull/100m kick; 4 x 100m front crawl (25 easy, 25 hard).
  • Brick session: 50 minutes on the bike followed by 10 minute run

Week four:

  • 30 min run – or walk/run.
  • Main: 8 x 200m pull, 8 x 25m kick, 4 x 100m front crawl (25 easy, 25 hard).
  • Brick session: 60 minutes on the bike followed by 15 minute run.

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